Building Sustainable Livelihoods
Livelihood Security is what every household craves for. But can it be sustainable and not harmful to the environment? Keeping that in mind, our vision for
this programme is to make sure “Vulnerable households have livelihood security which is sustainable and not harmful to the environment”.
Over the years, the ant has built a number of livelihood security programmes – some of which have worked well and some not. We have learnt from those mistakes
and now building programmes that would
1. Eri Silk Development : The Eri Silk Project was an ambitious attempt to get the entire earnings – from cocoon to cloth - to remain in the village. We got our women’s groups to start rearing silk worms, we purchased their cocoons to form a cocoon bank, spinners were trained in special machines to spin eri yarn and then the yarn were to be given to the weavers for weaving…. That’s when it stopped! The market for eri cocoons suddenly fell and we were left with huge stock at high prices since the spinners hit a bottle neck with spinning and never managed to use all the cocoons we stocked. Left with no more money to keep the cycle going, we had to stop the programme. But it was a bold attempt to change the relationship in eri production.
2. Entrepreneurship Development Programme : Realizing that mere development of skills through trainings was sometimes not sufficient to ensure one’s livelihood, the Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP), was started by Ant to provide financial support to micro businesses. Over the years, we gave more than 400 loans to individuals and groups to start enterprises like piggery, farm, vegetable vending shops, tailoring units and organic fertilizers etc. The Ant team envisioned that one day a body of local people under the banner of Gramin Vikas Samiti would take over the micro-Finance work but that has not been so. Most of the loans we gave out never came back. The months of riots and violence in 2012 affected the programme really badly. Many of our borrowers were small-time Bengali Muslim traders. Many of them got pauperized by the situation of violence – they had no money to return and we had no heart to ask. Currently, we have restricted the micro-lending programme to Deosri Cluster alone. A smaller geographical area coupled with close follow-up with borrowers has ensured (till date) that the loan returns are good. We are working to see that the loopholes in the earlier version of the programme are covered before we launch into a lending programme again.
3. Organizing Organic Farming : Realizing that farmers were struggling against havoc played on crops by climate change and change in the tune of government from pushing chemical fertilizers to the new demand for organic crops, Ant began to provide technical support and trainings through FRC for promotion of chemical-free farming, System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method of paddy cultivation and also scientific but organic cultivation of seasonal vegetables. But lack of irrigation was barrier in developing agriculture. We are working on helping farmers have some control over water before we can ask them to risk their all in trying out further new agri techniques.
Current and Future Strategies for Building Sustainable Livelihoods
Securing Livelihoods by securing natural resources of people – water, land, forest e.g. Rainwater Harvesting for water security; Demo farms for non-chemical farming
Recognizing role of women as farmers and working with them - to secure their livelihoods through farm based activities
Vocational skills training centre for livelihoods of unemployed, drop-out youth
Activating MGNREGA in our areas